My Shingle

What’s the most effective way for lawyers to protect their clients from a data breach of  Sony-like magnitude? Sure, they can sponsor trainings for clients, develop handbooks and checklists and purchase cyberinsurance. Or lawyers could take the most direct approach and identify and plug the security gaps themselves.

Sounds crazy – and outside a lawyer’s pay grade. Yet, Chris Cwalina and Steve Roosa, two Holland & Knight attorneys have built a practice area within their firm on that very concept. As the Washington Post describes (sorry, this story is from August 2014 – a bit dated for me), Cwalina and Roosa have created a “lab” that they use to research and test apps and websites of their clients to detect security lapses. Cwalina and Roosa don’t appear to have technical expertise (though Cwalina was in-house counsel at ChoicePoint, one of the first companies to disclose a massive data breach a decade ago), they work with a team of paralegals and tech consultants to create the testing environment. Once familiar with vulnerabilities, the lawyers can plug them. In addition, through hands on use of these technologies, Cwalina and Roosa can gain an idea of what types of procedures for protecting security are practical and feasible.

The firm charges a flat fee for this service. Presumably, fee-splitting rules aren’t invoked because the lawyers team with IT professionals employed by the firm who are paid a salary rather than allocated a share of the fee.   [click to continue…]

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A Place Where Solos Can Work Away

by Carolyn Elefant on January 21, 2015 · 3 comments

in Law Practice Management, New Ideas

To me, there’s nothing more depressing than the concept of the staycation  – essentially, spending valuable days off from work hanging around the house and area where you live. Sure, I get the concept of local sightseeing (I live in the tourism capitol after all) but that’s what visitors and houseguests are for. To me, vacation means getting away – far, far away.

Still, as a small law firm owner, I realize that true vacations aren’t always possible. Even if you can successfully master the planning, a trip of sufficient duration — i.e, more than a three-day weekend — can be costly and often not worth the effort when a pile of work awaits upon return.

Having wrestled with this conundrum myself, I was intrigued to learn, via the New York Times  of co-working vacations. As the article, by Tanya Mohn describes,   [click to continue…]

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Should a law firm blog be incorporated into a website or function as a freestanding entity? That’s a question that’s been asked almost since the beginning of time, with at least two experts – Sam Glover and Kevin O’Keefe endorsing separation for a variety of different reasons.

But now, a recent California ethics decision offers yet another reason for lawyers to maintain their blog’s independence. The California decision addresses whether blogs constitute advertising, and analyzes a couple of different fact patterns.  The California bar concludes that a freestanding blog offering informational or educational materials that is free standing, intended to enhance the lawyer’s education in the community and doesn’t include any “call us now for help” solicitations is not subject to bar advertising rules. By contrast, that same blog, if included as part of a law firm website would be deemed advertising essentially be association and subject to the same regulations as the parent site.

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Free and the Contract

by Carolyn Elefant on January 14, 2015 · 1 comment

in New Marketing Ideas, Solo Trends

Once upon a time, law firms used wills as a loss leader. Clients would come to a law firm for a free will and in theory, the firm would have first dibs on the more lucrative probate work when the time came. These days, free contracts are the 21st century version of free wills with lots of large law firms making corporate documents, term sheet generators and other types of documents freely available, reports Tech Crunch. Only today we’d call them lead generators and not loss leaders because they bring clients to us.

Free law firm contract offerings aren’t new; I blogged about big law free platforms like this over five years ago. What is new is that law firm free now faces competition, the Tech Crunch story continues. That’s because entrepreneurs can also find free contracts at sites like Docracy, Clerky or Shake which likewise offer free tools. In fact, why even bother to pay $99 for a contract from Legal Zoom when they’re free?  [click to continue…]

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Seven participants in Florida International University (FIU)’s LawBridge program which provides incubator space to lawyers willing to do low bono work recently got a rude dose of reality when FIU was bumped from its donated space by a large law firm that presumably could pay rent.  Without free space, the FIU program leaders can’t figure out what to do – they’re considering retooling the program to no longer offer office space, but instead, just advice through weekly CLEs (as if there wasn’t already anything like that online already).

Meanwhile, the lawyers installed in the space, many subsisting on a heavy diet of low bono work are scrambling in search of new digs.

Don’t get me wrong – I feel badly for the lawyers who now unexpectedly need to budget for what was previously a low cost budget space. But as I’ve always worried that the low-bono-for-free-space incubator model wouldn’t lead to sustainable practices, and indeed that may be the case. For example, consider a quote from this disappointed participant: [click to continue…]

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Unemployment Benefits as a Transition to Hanging a Shingle

January 9, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

Back in the dark ages when I started my law firm, I took advantage of unemployment benefits to help pay the bills. I’d been working five years before a layoff lead me to hang my shingle, so I figured that I’d paid enough into the system to deserve some support. Although my unemployment benefits maxed […]

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I’m Back!!!

January 9, 2015 by Carolyn Elefant

If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t posted since December 19. Three weeks ago. And last year too! That’s a huge gap for my blog, probably unprecedented. But life interrupted, and between a heavy caseload and my college daughter’s return from break, I’ve been too busy or too tired to blog. But I’m feeling reinvigorated. Like […]

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Success Through Succession Plans

December 19, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

Do your or your law firm have a succession plan? If you don’t you’re not alone. CNBC reports that a majority of financial advisors — more than two thirds – don’t have a succession plan for their own business – and that’s actually one of the tasks that they’re paid to handle for clients. You […]

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2014: The Year of New Law, No Hashtag

December 18, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

In May of 2014, Jordan Furlong published a comprehensive list of the universe of NewLaw business models – some that increase lawyers’ efficiencies, others that marginalize or eliminate the need for lawyers. But even though 2014 may have been a watershed for #newlaw, it was an even bigger year for new law, no hashtag. What […]

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Two Lessons in One: Law Firm Trade Names & Easy Data Compilation

December 16, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

Do you ever have a bunch of data that you need to compile but don’t want to take the time of fussing with Excel spreadsheets or creating tables? In this kind of situation, I’ll create my own data intake using Google’s Free Form creator.  I find it easier to enter the data through a form, […]

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